All About Link Bracelets – Native American and Otherwise

A variety of link bracelets

A variety of link bracelets, most Native American made with a few vintage costume jewelry and a few Mexican bracelets.

The traditional southwestern Native American bracelet is a cuff bracelet.

BP202-OS-634-turq-CTE-1

Vintage 9 Stone Kingman Turquoise and Sterling Silver Cuff Bracelet – C.T.E. Sterling. Raymond Etsitty, Navajo

BP202-OS-634-turq-CTE-5

 

 

But a cuff is not for everyone and especially some women, so in response to market demand, along the way, Navajo, Hopi and Zuni artists began making link bracelets.

Link bracelets are a great alternative to cuff bracelet – they are light, loose, airy and have a nice movement and feel to them. They are great for summer.

And if you are like me and want to wear more than one bracelet at a time, link bracelets make a nice addition on the same wrist as a watch, cuff bracelet or bangle bracelet.

Ken and Mary Bill - Navajo

12 K G.F. and Sterling Silver by Ken and Mary Bill – Navajo

Shirley Tso - Navajo

Rhodochrosite, Mother of Pearl and Opal Inlay by Shirley Tso – Navajo

Southwest Native Americans learned the art of silversmithing from plateros, Mexican silversmiths. Therefore I am including some Mexican link bracelets in this group to show various features.

Two Mexican-made bracelets stamped MEXICO 925

Two Mexican-made bracelets stamped MEXICO 925

The first Native American link bracelets started appearing in the Fred Harvey era and were made of copper.

Copper Thunderbird Link Bracelet - Fred Harvey Era but no markings

Copper Thunderbird Link Bracelet – Fred Harvey Era but no markings

Not all link bracelets are created equal. They take a lot of work to put together. Because they are somewhat “mechanical”, i.e. they have moving parts, either they work well or they don’t. That aim of this article is to point out some of the variables so you can choose the perfect link bracelet.

First of all, these are the main styles with materials most commonly used in Native American Link bracelets.

Sterling Silver Stamped Bead Link Bracelet by Navajo Marie Yazzie.

SILVER – Sterling Silver Stamped Bead Link Bracelet by Navajo Marie Yazzie.

 

Larry Lincoln Navajo Sterling Silver and Gold Storyteller Link Bracelet

STORYTELLER – Larry Lincoln, Navajo Sterling Silver and Gold Storyteller Link Bracelet

12 K G.F. and STERLING link bracelet with decorative box latch.

SILVER AND GOLD – 12 K G.F. and STERLING link bracelet with decorative box latch.

Lambert Perry, Navajo sterling silver concha style link bracelet

CONCHA STYLE – Lambert Perry, Navajo sterling silver concha style link bracelet

Rhodochrosite Inlay by Navajo Shirley Tso

INLAY – Rhodochrosite Inlay by Navajo Shirley Tso

Turquoise and Sterling Silver Cluster

STONE – Turquoise and Sterling Silver Cluster

LEATHER – Concha Belt Style by Navajo Danny Martinez

Next, how are the various panels attached to each other?

HINGES

HINGES

RINGS

RINGS

How do the ends fasten?

ADJUSTABLE WITH TOGGLE AND RINGS

ADJUSTABLE WITH TOGGLE AND RINGS – Lambert Perry, Navajo

BOX CLASP WITH TAB INSERT

BOX CLASP WITH TAB INSERT – Alonzo Mariano, Navajo

LOBSTER CLAW CLASP THAT ATTACHES TO RINGS - Navajo Scott Skeets

LOBSTER CLAW CLASP THAT ATTACHES TO RINGS – Navajo Scott Skeets

SPRING RING CLASP - Marie Yazzie, Navajo

SPRING RING CLASP – Marie Yazzie, Navajo

Sister (Scissor) Clasp on vintage copper Thunderbird Link Bracelet

SISTER CLASP – Sister (Scissor) Clasp on vintage copper Thunderbird Link Bracelet

BUCKLE - Concha belt style - Danny Martinez, Navajo

BUCKLE – Concha belt style – Danny Martinez, Navajo

Fold Over Clasp

FOLD OVER CLASP – OPEN on Sterling Silver Marcasite Bracelet stamped 925

Fold Over Clasp closed on Sterling Silver Marcasite Bracelet stamped 925

FOLD OVER CLASP – CLOSED on Sterling Silver Marcasite Bracelet stamped 925

Peg With Keeper

PEG WITH LATCH (KEEPER)

Vintage Topaz link bracelet with hidden latch

HIDDEN – Vintage Topaz link bracelet (from my mother’s jeweler box) with hidden latch

What are some  other features?

Tillie Jon, Navajo Storyteller Overlay Link Bracelet with Safety Chain, Spring Ring Clasp

SAFETY CHAIN WITH SPRING RING CLASP – Tillie Jon, Navajo Storyteller Overlay Link Bracelet with Box Latch and Safety Chain

Stephen Haloo, Zuni Snake Eye Link Bracelet with safety chain and lobster claw clasp

SAFETY CHAIN WITH LOBSTER CLAW CLASP – Stephen Haloo, Zuni Snake Eye Link Bracelet with box latch and safety chain

Lapis Link Bracelet stamped 950 (greater silver content than Sterling) with box latch and safety clasp.

SAFETY LATCH (KEEPER) – Lapis Link Bracelet stamped 950 (greater silver content than Sterling) with box latch and safety clasp (keeper).

Box Latch with Keeper on top edge

SAFETY LATCH – Box Latch with Keeper on top edge

HERE ARE TWO UNIQUE HINGED CUFFS

Yazzie Navajo Link Cuff Bracelet with Amber

HINGED CUFF – Yazzie Navajo Link Cuff Bracelet with Amber

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

HINGED LINK CUFF – Jay Boyd Inlay Bracelet

Jay Boyd Hinged Link Cuff Bracelet

HINGED LINK CUFF – Jay Boyd Inlay Bracelet

Remember, you will be putting a link bracelet on with one hand, so choose one that has a fastener you can easily operate.

Although many link bracelets are adjustable, be sure to choose a length that will allow the bracelet to fit like you want – snug in place, loose, or actively moving.

I hope that this article has helped you find the missing link in your jewelry collection !

Paula

 

 

What is the story on this bracelet?

Paula,
I recently purchased a bracelet which was made by Tom and Sue Kee.  Can you explain what the story is about?  I can send you a picture.
I am not selling my jewelry.  We just were in Arizona and it was purchased at Black Arrow Indian Art in Prescott Arizona.  It cost approximately $200.  My husband purchased it as a gift for me.
I have attached the photo.  I only want to know what is the story on this bracelet.
I hope you can help.
Thanks
Debbie
IMG_0959 croppedHi Debbie,
You have a storyteller bracelet by Tom and Sylvia Kee, a Navajo husband and wife team that have been making storyteller items for a number of years. (By the way, the name Sue was erroneously carried forward for several years based on a mistake made at one of the dealers in New Mexico and many people repeated “Tom and Sue Kee” but Sylvia contacted me and told me the story !)
Storyteller bracelets show Navajo life. The home (hogan) and the activities around the home such as cooking, weaving, tending livestock, driving a wagon to town. The scenery of the area such as buttes, trees and shrubs and sometimes clouds are also depicted. It is hard for me to see the exact details of your bracelet in the photo but if you click on some of these bracelets you will see some of the typical stories depicted.
Storyteller bracelet by Tom and Sylvia Kee, Navajo
BP150-WB-634-story-gold-kee-1BP152-WB-7-story-gold-kee-1
Enjoy your beautiful bracelet !! A lovely gift from your husband.
Paula
PS As Russ Nobbs mentioned in his note below, the “real” storyteller is something more like this:
the-storyteller-illustratio

Roderick Tenorio not Roderick Torino

Hello Paula,

Hope you can answer a question for me. I was in Santa Fee (years ago) and during the open market I purchased a sterling silver cuff bracelet from I thought the artist Roderick Torino.

It is stamped sterling with RMT and a symbol like a loop with 2 lines across it.

braclet

Is this his jewelry? What is the difference between the half-moon R and the one I have?

Does this mean he didn’t make it?

Renee

Hi Renee,

First of all, it is Roderick Tenorio, a Kewa (Santo Domingo Pueblo) artist who shares the hallmark with his wife Marilyn.

The hallmark you show is their hallmark.

When a piece also has the half moon and the R, it is an additional mark to indicate it is from the shop “Relios” which is now Carolyn Pollack Sterling Silver jewelry.

That group of hallmarks were on the bracelet in our pawn shop which is probably how you found us and why you wrote us.

Bracelet-tenorio-3Paula

Tom and Sue Kee – it should be Sylvia Kee

Ten years ago, when I first started working here one of the very first items I listed was a vintage storyteller bracelet by Navajo silversmiths Tom and Sue Kee. I put it in the pawn shop.

header-pawnshop

The bracelet had the hallmark TSK and a hogan. I was told by several people more experienced than me that it was the hallmark of Tom and Sue Kee, Navajo husband and wife silversmiths who specialized in storyteller items.

“The Little Book of Marks on Southwestern Silver: Silversmiths, Designers, Guilds and Traders” by Bille Hougart states the same thing on page 181 – that the hallmark is shared by Tom and Sue Kee.

And so over the years, I’ve listed barrettes, bracelets and all kinds of things attributed to Tom and Sue Kee.

BAR721-ponytail-x3-storyteller-kee-A-2

Then the other day, when I got to work, there was a message on the answering machine something like this
“Hi Paula, This is Sylvia Kee. I see on the internet you have the storyteller bracelets by Tom and Sue Kee. It should be Sylvia Kee. I thought you would like to know.”

Sylvia, I wish I had been here to talk with you or that you left your phone number……..but anyway, I did some more digging and heard that years ago Tom and Sylvia had made some jewelry for a store and when Sylvia signed for the payment, her signature was misinterpreted as Sue – and it STUCK !!

Thanks for bringing this to our attention Sylvia. We have corrected our website listings.